Category Archives: Theater

Actor Sam Mandel from our smash hit “The Chosen’ has a special message just for you

What is the duty of the artist in troubled times?

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Fountain Theatre’s “Citizen: An American Lyric” at Grand Park, Los Angeles, 2018.

by Mary Gabriel

In the late 1930s, amid a global economic collapse, the rise of fascism in Germany, Italy and Japan, and an ugly U.S. nationalism that targeted asylum-seeking immigrants, abstract artists working in New York pondered the perennial question: What is the duty of the artist in troubled times?

The question was not academic. With thousands of Nazi sympathizers marching through Midtown Manhattan, Boston teenagers reenacting Kristallnacht by attacking Jewish-owned businesses, and politicians and preachers spewing messages of hate, the bonds of rational society were unraveling. And many feared that as bad as things were, the worst might be yet to come.

There seemed to be no way to escape a paralyzing sense of foreboding. And yet it was incumbent upon the artist to do just that, to rise above the daily headlines — which dancer Martha Graham said affected every muscle in the body — to transform and clarify the world they inhabited.

It wasn’t easy. When one is in the midst of tectonic historical shifts it is nearly impossible to grasp their significance, much less their outcome. And yet the artists in New York in the 1930s, and later in the 1940s when the full horror of those times became excruciatingly clear, found a way.

Art can take up residence in our minds and hearts in a way a headline cannot.

Today, in our own troubled world, artists from Los Angeles to Beijing, Moscow to Rio are grappling with similar questions. How does one write, paint, compose or perform works that describe this age without being consumed by it, without producing mere propaganda? How does one convey the simultaneous confusion and conviction, the anger and concomitant longing for calm — in short, the irrationality — with any degree of certainty? And how does one project through art a better path when the route is constantly shifting?

Faced with such a difficult task, many artists wonder if they are obliged to be chroniclers of their times. During periods of war, social strife, economic upheaval, massive industrial or technological change, is it the duty of the artist to record and reflect that chaos?

Yes it is, in part because it is impossible for a true artist to do otherwise.

Artists may work in isolation, but they are intrinsically messengers, their works communications. They also exist in a state of hyper-receptivity because every encounter and experience might produce material for the next sentence, song, photograph or canvas. Short of living in a soundproof windowless box, especially in an age such as ours, it is impossible for an artist to blot out the world.

But another, more important reason an artist must confront his or her time is that historically art and artists have explained and challenged, and that combination has produced greater understanding.

LA Times

Judith Moreland and Bo Foxworth, “Building the Wall”, Fountain Theatre, 2017.

In the 1930s and 1940s, newspaper headlines, cinema newsreels, radio broadcasts and public service posters disseminated information around the clock. But those reports chronicled events. It was left to artists to ascribe meaning.

A young James Jones wrote his first novel, “From Here to Eternity,” describing the wreckage of lives upended by war. Oscar Hammerstein’s 1940 lyrics for “The Last Time I Saw Paris” evoked for generations the melancholy felt by those forced to flee Nazi advances in France. And two painters bookended the traumas of the 1930s and 1940s in their works: Picasso, with “Guernica,” which depicted the 1937 Nazi attack on the Basque capital of that name and the first “total” air raid in history, and Jackson Pollock, with his “drip” paintings 10 years later. In the wake of World War II’s atrocities, from Auschwitz to Hiroshima, Pollock painted the world as it was, a world destroyed but not irrevocably so.

Today, in our own world of blogs, bots and perpetual “breaking news,” it is left to artists to cut through the deafening noise as their forebears did in the middle of the last century — in a search for meaning and, most particularly in our case, in the service of truth.

Art can do that. Art can take up residence in our minds and hearts in a way a headline cannot. Songs, poems, paintings and film provoke, console, elucidate and elevate. It is up to each artist to find a way, and they must try. In the early 1950s, amid the Korean War and Joe McCarthy’s political witch hunts, painter Grace Hartigan said of her work, “I try to make some logic out of the world that has been given to me in chaos…. The fact that I know I am doomed to failure — that doesn’t deter me in the least.”

Hartigan and her fellow painters spent years searching for the best way to convey their era, and realized they could no longer rely on the literal people, places and things that had occupied artists for centuries. They needed to start from scratch, to find new images — a new visual language — to reflect and explain the time because nothing that had been employed before could possibly describe the devastation the world had experienced. In their studios alone, faced with a blank canvas, each painted the only thing they could trust at that broken moment — their own nature. It was a difficult personal journey, but it was not unlike the explorations that expanded the geographic reach of humankind. The artists who would become known as the Abstract Expressionists traveled so far inside themselves that they discovered a universe, and in so doing, helped a ravaged world recover by creating a new way to see.

Before his suicide in the spring of 1948, the French poet and playwright Antonin Artaud wrote a kind of memorandum to artists trying to navigate their way in a hostile world: 

THE DUTY
Of the writer, of the poet
Is not to shut himself up like a coward in a text, a book, a magazine
from which he will never emerge
But on the contrary to go out
Into the world
To jolt
to attack
The mind of the public
If not
what is he for?
And why was he born?

 

Mary Gabriel is an award-winning author. This post originally appeared in the LA Times.

‘Arrival & Departure’ renewed our love for one another

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Deanne Bray and Troy Kotsur in “Arrival & Departure”.

by Deanne Bray

Arrival & Departure was quite a journey for Troy and I, both as artists and as husband and wife. It was a journey that was filled with surprises, both personal and professional.

As actors, who happen to be husband and wife, Troy and I dug deep, discovering what it would be like to fall in love all over again. And as Emily and Sam fell in love in the play, Troy and I fell in love all over again. Through the rehearsal process, and through Stephen Sachs’ direction, we found meaningful ways to keep our feelings fresh and real. As we developed our characters, Emily and Sam, we discovered ways to grow their hearts, allowing them to be truly visible to one another. As the weeks went by during the production, our work continued to grow. There were new discoveries —large and small — and we treasured them all. One of my favorite moments was when Emily saw Sam holding back tears as they said their last goodbyes in the final scene. As they looked into each other’s eyes, Sam’s strength —with one teardrop rolling down his cheek — was lovely and heartbreaking for me to watch. It worked for the scene in such a powerful and magical way; making it harder for me, as Emily to let go of Sam, her soul mate.

For years, I have admired Troy’s work on stage and television. We have worked together before on stage, screen and TV, but never opposite one another as a leading man and woman. With Arrival and Departure, Troy and I had the chance to really explore our craft together as actors.

As husband and wife, Arrival & Departure renewed our love for one another. We found a new and powerful spark that shifted our perspectives, and made us even more grateful to have each other. We learned anew how to bring out the best in each other; and were reminded to always pay attention to each other, despite the daily struggles of life.

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In rehearsal for “Arrival & Departure.”

Arrival & Departure was a unique production in the way theatre, film, and technology were utilized to tell this story about two different communities —Deaf and Hearing — in a thoroughly contemporary and accessible way. This story reminded us to take a step back and celebrate what we have — (or if necessary to be brave enough to make a change).

Another memory that stands out. My daughter’s friend from school came to see the play with her parents on Kyra’s birthday (with Kyra performing). Troy noticed the father smoking in the parking lot while his family was getting the tickets. Troy read his body language as a restless man who probably did not want to be there and half-heartedly followed his family into the theatre. I learned later from the mother, that after the show, the father was speechless and talked nonstop about Arrival & Departure on the way home. Seeing how Arrival & Departure affected her husband was very meaningful for her. This kind of art is unique and so imperative as it gives people insight into their own lives.

Troy and I were blessed to be part of Arrival & Departure. The different characters and storylines touched everyone who saw it. We hope that Arrival & Departure will be produced across the country. Its message is powerful: be true to yourself and support the people in your life with love.

Stories at the Fountain Theatre like The Chosen, Arrival & Departure, and Cost of Living can change people in powerful ways with inspiration, hope and connection.

Deanne Bray is an actress and teacher. 

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Fountain Theatre’s ‘Cost of Living’ hailed “Best in Theater in 2018” by Los Angeles Times

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Katy Sullivan and Felix Solis in ‘Cost of Living’.

The Fountain Theatre’s acclaimed west coast premiere of Cost of Living by Martyna Majok has been named by Los Angeles Times theatre critic Charles McNulty as “Best in Theater in 2018.”  McNulty writes, “The Fountain Theatre’s production of Majok’s “Cost of Living” confirmed just how indispensable 99-seat theaters still are to a healthy theater ecology.” 

“Martyna Majok’s searing drama,” McNulty continues, “about the relationship between disabled persons and their caregivers was bravely essayed by the Fountain in a production directed by John Vreeke that revealed just how acutely this Pulitzer Prize-winning drama exposes some vulnerable truths at the heart of the human condition.”

Cost of Living features Tobias Forrest, Xochitl Romero, Felix Solis and Katy Sullivan. The run ends this Sunday, December 16.

More Info/Get Tickets 

‘Cost of Living’ playwright Martyna Majok asks you to support the Fountain Theatre

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Playwright Martyna Majok.

Friends of the Fountain,

Thank you for bringing Cost of Living to Los Angeles. This is the first production the play has received after its NYC premiere at Manhattan Theatre Club in June 2017 and the world premiere at Williamstown Theatre Festival in July 2016. 

I’m grateful to The Fountain for investing in this story and for continuing its life. I’m grateful also for the beautiful, thoughtful production that you and the wonderful team of artists created. And I’m thrilled for the kind welcome that the play and production have received in LA—and the chance to showcase the talents of some truly incredible actors.

I hope you’ll join me in supporting The Fountain Theatre by making a Year End Gift today.

Martyna Majok

Click here to donate.

VIDEO: ‘Cost of Living’ actor Felix Solis wants you to join the ‘caravan of magic’ at Fountain Theatre

 

Students respond to the power and honesty of ‘Cost of Living’ at the Fountain Theatre

“It captured me from the very first scene.”

The Fountain Theatre believes students and young people must have the opportunity to engage and consider meaningful human issues through the experience of live theatre.  We love having students in our audience. They are the artists, arts patrons and arts leaders of tomorrow. 

We’re always delighted when teacher Alan Goodson brings his students from Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising to the Fountain Theatre. They recently enjoyed our funny and poignant West Coast Premiere of Martyna Majok’s Pulitzer Prize winning play, Cost of Living.  Here are some of the reactions written by the students: 

“Overall, the play was an excellent representation of everyday life, not just for one with disabilities, but for those who crave to be pulled out of loneliness. The way that Majok portrayed the play through the eyes of two characters in wheelchairs, as well as their caretakers, was an excellent way to grab the audience’s attention. It was an on-edge performance, with exceptional acting skills. While showing someone with disabilities can be a touchy subject for most, it’s important for others to see that they aren’t the only ones in life that may need a little extra love, or caretaking.”

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Tobias Forrest and Xochitl Romero in “Cost of Living”

“Whether it be bathing, eating, or taking part in social life, Cost of Living is a reenactment of what millions of people go through. This thought-provoking piece allows the audience to be vulnerable, uncomfortable, and also gives people a chance the be thankful for the simple things that are often taken for granted.”

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Cost of Living was a production that completely changed my perception of those that are disabled. I believed that many were strong, and had to carry on with their lives after an incident happens, or even from birth. However, I didn’t realize the actual struggle that these people had to face in daily life, when it comes to daily, normal activities. I not only had sympathy for them, but I also saw their strength and courage and how it can be hard to accept help from others, especially when they see others carrying on their lives normally, when they physically are not able to do so. If the play was able to change my views, it’s able to change many others’ as well.”

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“I believe the director and actors were able to show and bring to life that feeling of what the characters cost of living was. Personally, I can relate to the production in that I have a disability that at times hinders my ability to live life to my fullest. I try not to let it, but at times there is nothing I can do about it being my cost of living.”

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“The play is about disabilities with people, not the other way around. The message of the play is that the biggest disabilities we can have are the ones that every person encounters at some point—loneliness and fear. The worst disabilities are not about having someone bathe or shave you, it’s the ones that make us human and make us all alike in some way. Personally, I found myself somewhere in this play, as I’m sure many others did. It captured me from the very first scene, and made me feel for each character and I related it to struggles in my own life.”

Theatre as a Learning Tool is the Fountain Theatre’s educational outreach program, making theatre accessible to students and young people throughout Southern California. 

More Info/Get Tickets to Cost of Living